minute read

I’m retiring as a photographer

Photography was something I fell in love with accidentally. As a 17-year-old, my favorite class in high school was an elective that encompassed 3D modeling and architecture, mostly because my I got to hang out with my best friend, Sean, and it was taught by my favorite teacher, who was the type of guy that would start a friendly conversation with a cashier at a gas station.

My best friend was exceptional at 3D modeling and could study an object then flawlessly create a virtual facsimile of it in no time at all. I, on the other hand, couldn’t build my way out of wet cardboard box. So when a national competition was laid at our feet, it seemed like something we’d like to try to work on together, but we’d have to get creative about it.

The competition was for students with an interest in technology and was open to robotics teams, future architects, and other technically minded kids. But at the very end of the long list of categories crafted for future rocket scientists, Sean and I found the category that we’d eventually go on to pursue: film.

I loved shooting videos. Every few years, I’ll fondly revisit some grainy concert footage I took on my Sony Handycam from the back of a local VFW. The excitement that came from capturing that perfect stage dive or the energy of a crowd at a band’s final show before splitting up and heading off to college was indescribable.

But there’s something adults don’t tell budding teenage filmmakers: when you go to school full time, have a job after school, a girlfriend, and barely any self control or motivation at that age, making time to practice the art of conceptualizing, storyboarding, directing, shooting, editing, and publishing a video is pretty difficult. Concerts weren’t booked every weekend, especially when there was already a limited number of venues in my rural county. So what could keep me behind the lens without all the overhead that came with producing videos?

What initially started as a way to spend more time with my friend and kind of sort of get out of doing other schoolwork led me to become the photographer you know today. At least, to some degree—either you’ve been in front of my lens, you’ve tried one of my Lightroom presets for your own photos, or we’ve connected somehow over the years. So why hang that up seemingly out of nowhere?

I still plan on incorporating photography into my life, as it’s a skill that I respect and value. Weddings are always an absolute blast, and I still have some lined up that I can’t wait to capture. And personally, as my kids grow older, it’s been invaluable to have so many memories to look back on, both for my wife and I and for them. But I’m ready for a new challenge.

So what’s next?

For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain the trust of some absolutely wonderful people who believed in me before I believed in myself. I never thought that someone who took three years to graduate from a two year school with a very non-specific associate’s degree would be working in a field previously reserved for folks with MBAs. But lately, I’ve been doing some really fun things with really cool people in the realm of creative strategy, and I’d love to continue to pour into that.

There’s something creatively satisfying about dreaming up a project from thin air, pitching it to someone who falls in love with the idea, and launching it into the world for the first time. And the second time. And the tenth. Falling in love with your own project is pretty typical, but seeing other people find value or entertainment out of something that I’ve built or designed is where the magic happens. Over the coming weeks, I’ll begin rebranding “Dan Schenker Photography” as something that better represents what I’ve been working on these past few years. I haven’t settled on a name yet, and your suggestions are absolutely encouraged.

Creative strategy is a field for dreamers, and ironically, I rarely dream overnight. So while I’m awake, I’m going to continue to create TikTok effects, build Lightroom filters, and yes, even take photos should the project call for it. I want to pour into other creatives and collaborate with friends across industries and global borders in ways that I never could as “just” a photographer. But I’m releasing myself from being bound to one idea and accepting that creative strategy is exactly what I set out to do as a teenager with my buddy Sean whether I knew it or not.

Finally, if you’d like to read more stories like this and hear more about projects as they bubble up, I’d love to create an open conversation with you. I’m building a new email list so that I can actually get to know you rather than what the algorithms want to show me. I’d love it if you’d click this link or use the form below to join me there.

PS: If you’re at all invested in this story, you might have noticed the photo accompanying this post. It was taken in 2007, and it shows Sean and I in uncomfortably large dress shirts at the exact event I mentioned. We went on to take second place in New Jersey, then sixth place nationally in the same competition.

And what happened with Sean’s exceptional 3D modeling skills? He went on to have a career in jewelry design, both freelance and professionally, where he used his 3D abilities right up until he passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. Our favorite teacher was in attendance at his funeral.

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